Excavating mass graves in Rwanda:
The 1994 Rwandan genocide was a period of significant tragedy where the death toll exceeded 800,000 people known as Tutsis and their sympathisers who were murdered by a Hutu majority.
Excavations continue to this day, and thousands will never know the fate of friends and relatives long gone. The following photographs were taken in the Kabuga district, east of Kigali following a tip off from a man who remained silent for 24 years. What was uncovered were the remains of thousands of murdered people.
This long-term project investigates post-conflict societal issues and inherited socio-psychological problems. These photographs show the process of excavating Tutsi remains by a community effort from the Rwandan genocide nearly 24 years on. Only a corrugated metal fence separates the excavation site and the locals who live there.
Excavators are largely made up of volunteers and people of Hutu and Tutsi ancestry. These terms were introduced by colonial powers to divide Rwanda and are now illegal to use in the country.
Identifying the victims:
Once the remains of the victims are discovered, they are stored and processed in order to be identified. However, due to decomposition, it is sometimes difficult to match DNA with the people excavators have found.
In many cases, the dead are buried without being named. The only real chance of finding out who they are, is through well preserved DNA. But if that is not available then speculative identification is recognised if a national ID card, driving licence or passport is located.
Life continues, but will never be the same:
From the site, the contrast between the excavation grounds and its locality is stark.Outside of the area, pharmacists, grocery stores and other local businesses go about their day, whereas, inside - clothing, hair and bodily remains are being collected to identify the dead. Of particular note was the system of discovery. Nothing is passed over nor is it discarded to better distinguish learning the identity of each victim.